I had such high hopes for this book. I'd seen both Simon at Savidge Reads and Russell at Ink and Paper Blog rave over it, and it even made their best books of the year (2017) lists. I'm really keen to read short stories after my infatuation began with them last year mainly prompted by The Weight of Human Heart (see my review) and I was excited to explore the genre. So when I found a copy of Whatever Happened to Interracial Love on sale in Sydney last month I was very excited to start reading it soon.
And so I did when I was back in Sydney on holiday this month. But then I really didn't understand it right from the beginning. The first two stories- Exteriors and Interiors are linked I think, but this isn't obvious initially. Exteriors is very short- two pages really, something like a director lighting a break up between a couple. It's really hard to work out what's going on initially. It just launches it into, so I started the book going "what?".
"Okay, it's a sixth-floor walk-up, three rooms in the front, bathtub in the kitchen, roaches on the walls, a cubbyhole of a john with a stained-glass window. The light? They've got light up the butt! It's the tallest building on the block, facing nothin' but rooftops and sun. Okay, let's light it for night...."Interiors is the internal thoughts of a couple, first Husband then Wife. I see what she did stylistically with the sentence fragments of the Husband section, and the longer phrases, sentences even in Wife. I just didn't like it.
Only Once documents thoughts about a dangerous man, dangerous to love, dangerous to himself. You know someone like this only once in your life, and yet you can't remember how, or even when, they died.
He didn't clear the rail. Or maybe he did. Maybe it was later. He mistimed a dive from a high cliff. Or maybe he didn't. Maybe it was even later than that. He shot himself in the head. Thought the gun was empty. Or maybe he knew it wasn't.Really? I read two more stories and then couldn't go on. I got about half way through. There was occasional lovely phrasing but it was never enough to overcome the large obstacles to my reading and my lack of enjoyment.
One of those nights when talk spins a thick, womblike cocoon around the talkers and one grows drunk, ecstatic, joyfully sated with talk.Eventually after not liking, or even understanding, most of the stories I came to the difficult decision to put the book aside. I'm really not very good at giving up on books. I need to get better at it. I have so many books I want to read that if one isn't working for me then I need to stop, to desist, and to not feel guilty or bad about that. I tend to stall books that I'm not enjoying but by and large believe that I will pick them up again when the time is right. I don't think I'll give this one another go. Clearly, I'm missing something because the book is blurbed extensively by Zadie Smith, Hari Kunzru and Kit de Waal.
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